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YOKOHAMA--Representatives of 93 local governments across Japan pledged to work on U.N. Sustainable Development Goals in seeking to forge ahead with regional revitalization during a national forum held here.

As one mayor put it at the Jan. 30 gathering, "We are thinking globally and acting locally."

The participants adopted a declaration on an “SDGs Japan model,” which is about promoting cooperation among the residents of their communities in seeking to solve challenges.

The forum titled “SDGs All Japan Meeting 2019” was hosted by the Kanagawa prefectural government under the joint auspices of the Yokohama and Kamakura city authorities, which are both based in the prefecture.

During a panel discussion, leaders of local governments talked about how their respective self-governing bodies are working strategically to pursue SDGs.

Hiroko Kuniya, a news presenter and journalist, moderated the session, where the governor of Kanagawa Prefecture, initiator of the national forum, and the mayors of four cities that are actively committed to SDGs served as panelists.

Excerpts from the discussion follow.

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FOCUS ON SMILES

Yuji Kuroiwa, governor of Kanagawa Prefecture: We have set this basic policy ideal saying, “Lives shine in Kanagawa.” The availability of extensive health care alone is not enough to allow lives to shine. Efforts should be made integrally with measures in farming, education, the environment, community development and other sectors. That is the same thing as the integrated approach called for in the SDGs.

We are focusing, among other things, on improving what we call “mibyo,” a state halfway between being ill and being healthy. We are collaborating with the World Health Organization with an emphasis on diet, physical exercise and social participation.

We have also issued a “zero plastic waste declaration,” which is about eliminating unrecycled plastic waste. Plastic waste was found in the stomach of a baby blue whale that washed ashore in Kamakura in summer 2018. People will be more motivated to act if they realize that the waste they produce can affect the lives of marine creatures like whales.

Many people are unimpressed when they are told about efforts to help create a sustainable Earth. It is essential to have a simpler goal. So, we will be setting a goal of creating a “society brimming with smiles.”

Smiles do propagate. When you are smiling, you are not isolated. There is data showing that smiling is good for your health. How many seconds do you smile a day? If you say 30 seconds, one minute will be our goal.

It is important for local governments to reorganize their policy measures along the lines of the SDGs. That leads to discoveries and helps engender new policy measures.

BUSINESS TIES, RESIDENTS’ POWER

Takashi Matsuo, mayor of Kamakura: The use of technologies is a major key to solving regional issues. Our new, major pillar, which is about using SDGs as a guide for solving challenges, has set the stage for working with businesses and other parties in conducting pilot programs.

Last year, we worked with a private company to distribute smart speakers at no charge to elderly citizens and studied how effective they are in delaying dementia and watching over their safety. We will continue to do experiments and studies from various approaches.

Voluntary activities by residents have taken root in our city, as illustrated by the “Kamacon” program, where people come up with ideas to vitalize our community, and workshops to make goods. We will draw on that power as a foundation for proceeding with dialogue under our motto of, “Nobody will be left behind.”

SPOTLIGHT ON SOLAR POWER

Yasutomo Suzuki, mayor of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture: Our city has introduced more electricity generated by solar power than any other municipality in Japan. As a result of our push on regional businesses, local capital is involved in 80 percent of the solar power introduced.

Public-private partnership has also allowed us to set up Hamamatsu Energy Co., a new power producer and supplier. We hope to make sure electricity will be supplied and consumed locally.

On the forestry front, we are pushing local efforts to acquire authorization from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies sustainable forest management practices. Our city has more FSC-certified areas than any other municipality in Japan.

We have worked with local businesses to set up a framework for using FSC-certified lumber. We are hoping in the future to cooperate with businesses based outside Shizuoka Prefecture that have a declared commitment to FSC procurement.

Our efforts have led me to believe it is so essential to create a common ground under specific themes.

Our city is home to many foreign residents of Japanese descent. We have been practicing multiculturalism for 30 years. Our non-Japanese citizens are helping to revitalize our regional community.

COLLECTIVE LOBSTER FISHING

Chihiro Takeuchi, mayor of Shima, Mie Prefecture: We are working to collectivize spiny lobster fishing and promote equal share of catch. Fishermen, who used to go to sea one by one, are now working in units of five. That has allowed them to save on fuel and fishing gear, and work fewer hours.

Officials in the fisheries industry have come from overseas to inspect what we do, which they believe is a mutually beneficial and sustainable form of fishing. We have also forged ties with chefs based in urban areas who are concerned about fishing resources and the issue of succession of fishermen.

We are working with them to figure out how to make changes to the distribution system that prove disadvantageous to people in areas of production.

On the pearl culture front, we are weighing the option of working with a small hydro power plant in Nagano Prefecture to draw on renewable energy to cover the power demand required for running the operations.

We are thinking globally and acting locally. Nobody objects to something that you do for the benefit of future generations, such as our children and grandchildren. I am convinced that remote areas will be pioneering change.

EMPOWERING WOMEN, EQUALITY

Hyakuo Makino, mayor of Sabae, Fukui Prefecture: Our prefecture is the national leader in women’s employment and the rate of dual-income households. Many women, however, are working in some sort of cottage industry for small businesses with four or less employees. We, therefore, do have the problem of a work-life balance.

We will be working hard to realize gender equality so women will be empowered in the true sense of the word.

We are currently working out a comprehensive program, which will be the pillar of our city administration, so it will be linked with SDGs. SDGs cover a broad range of goals, so everyone will have an opportunity to play a role in one way or another.

But very little is known about the way the Earth is screaming with pain and about things like environmental, social and governance investing.

We will first work hard to reach out to a broad audience of residents so they come to understand why we need to pursue SDGs. We will be seeking “visualization” methods for that purpose.

IDENTIFYING ISSUES

Hiroko Kuniya: The SDGs provide a tool that allows local governments to closely study what are their strengths and allures and what they are lacking in. They can thereby kick-start the process of picking up priority issues from there and taking them up in their policy measures.

A pitfall here is the risk of hoping to get the best part of everything. Policy measures should be consistent ones that take account of the economy, society and the environment in an integrated fashion.

Local government leadership from the top down is a must. Within the local administration machinery, fractionalization by department should be eliminated to foster a more open atmosphere.

And collaboration with businesses, universities, nongovernmental bodies and other parties should come on top of that all to allow things to happen in practice.

In a survey of 500 small and midsize companies in 11 prefectures, including Tokyo, taken last October by the industry ministry's Kanto Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry, 84.2 percent of the respondents said they knew nothing at all about SDGs. The goals have quite limited recognition among small and midsize businesses, and the situation is much the same among the general public.

I hope local governments will focus on enhancing their respective sustainability and actively promote public-private partnerships, so there will be a rising momentum on the regional level to pursue SDGs.

LIST OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS OK'd DECLARATION

(Founding signatories: 33 prefectures, 60 municipalities)

Hokkaido

City of Sapporo

Town of Niseko, Hokkaido

Town of Shimokawa, Hokkaido

Iwate Prefecture

Miyagi Prefecture

City of Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture

Akita Prefecture

City of Senboku, Akita Prefecture

Yamagata Prefecture

Town of Iide, Yamagata Prefecture

Fukushima Prefecture

Ibaraki Prefecture

City of Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture

Tochigi Prefecture

Gunma Prefecture

Saitama Prefecture

City of Saitama

City of Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture

Chiba Prefecture

City of Chiba

Tokyo

Kanagawa Prefecture and all municipalities therein

Toyama Prefecture

City of Toyama

Ishikawa Prefecture

City of Suzu, Ishikawa Prefecture

City of Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture

Fukui Prefecture

City of Sabae, Fukui Prefecture

Yamanashi Prefecture

Nagano Prefecture

Gifu Prefecture

Shizuoka Prefecture

City of Shizuoka

City of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture

City of Toyota, Aichi Prefecture

City of Shima, Mie Prefecture

Shiga Prefecture

Kyoto Prefecture

City of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture

Village of Totsukawa, Nara Prefecture

Wakayama Prefecture

Tottori Prefecture

Shimane Prefecture

City of Okayama

City of Maniwa, Okayama Prefecture

Hiroshima Prefecture

Yamaguchi Prefecture

City of Ube, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Tokushima Prefecture

Town of Kamikatsu, Tokushima Prefecture

Kagawa Prefecture

Fukuoka Prefecture

City of Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture

Nagasaki Prefecture

City of Iki, Nagasaki Prefecture

Town of Oguni, Kumamoto Prefecture

Kagoshima Prefecture

Okinawa Prefecture